When it comes to brand partnerships, location is a good place to start. For example, it was Texas pride brought together Chili’s Grill & Bar and Tito’s Handmade Vodka.
Chili’s got its start in 1975 in Dallas, Texas as a hamburger/chili joint with uniquely Southwestern tastes. Over the decades, the brand has maintained its Tex-Mex roots, and the menu has grown to include “fresh spins on America’s favorites,” emphasizing the brand’s Fresh Tex and Fresh Mex flavor profiles.
Edithann Ramey, vice president, marketing at Chili’s, explains that when the folks at Tito’s Handmade Vodka approached her about working together, it was a match made in Texas.
“Tito’s brand has a similar back story to Chili’s; they started small in Austin and have a great passion for Texas. This cobranding supports our focus on Fresh Mex and Fresh Tex,” Ramey says. “We look for partners who can help our menu evolve in ways that keep the focus on fresh iterations of both Mexican and Texas cuisines.”
Tito’s vodka is made in batches at Texas’ oldest legal distillery, where the process is similar to making fine single-malt scotches, using old-fashioned pot stills and American corn for a smooth, full-bodied spirit. The first cocktail to come from this partnership is Tito's Punch, a rum-vodka based blend of pineapple, fresh sour mix, grenadine and pineapple garnish.
“We worked with Tito’s to create a punch recipe that’s simple, fresh and refreshing,” Ramey says. “It appeals to both men and women, which is important. This recipe development didn’t go back and forth many times; it’s grounded in guests insights. We know our guests love fresh ingredients and flavors, and this delivers.”
Ramey also says that servers can recommend the punch with the menus’ Texas favorites, such as ribs and burgers, as well as with fajitas, Fresh Mex Bowls and the brand’s signature guacamole, prepared tableside. In fact, Chili’s tableside service is inspiring more cocktail development ideas for using Tito’s.
“To match the fresh positioning of our food, we want to put more emphasis on the hand-crafting of the drink, with tableside mixing and shaking,” Ramey says. “We are already planning another seasonal cocktail, and fresh fruit will always be an important component.”
Working with supplier partners has led to many new collaborations for the Chili’s brand, says Ramey, who notes that the sharing back and forth is important as, more and more, diners want to hear the story behind food and beverage ingredients.
“Including origin and location stories on menus is the new normal,” says Ramey. “Tito’s is a great regional match, and also tells a location story that complements ours.”
This post is sponsored by Bush’s Best®